Interviews

“The role of aluminium-ion battery technology in the design of the transparent battery lies in addressing the challenges associated with colour indicator energy storage, particularly in applications such as energy-efficient buildings and wearable devices,” Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh, Scientist, Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Science (CeNS)

INTERVIEWEE
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Category
Interview
Date
21-Feb-2024
Source
AL Circle
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Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh is a materials scientist specialising in synthesising and designing nanomaterials for applications like energy conversion, storage, sensors, and optoelectronics. He excels in translating research into practical prototypes and large-scale devices, with a strong track record in collaborating with industries and government sectors. With a B.Sc. from Hindu College, Delhi University, and an Integrated MSc-PhD from S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata, he has extensive experience, including postdoctoral research and roles in academia and industry. Dr Singh's research focuses on functional nanomaterials, smart coatings, transparent electrodes, and energy-related technologies. He prioritises affordability and enhanced energy efficiency in his projects and holds a "Six Sigma-Green Belt certification".

AL Circle: Can you elaborate on converting ordinary glass windows into energy-storing units using the innovative battery technology developed at CeNS?

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Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: Absolutely! The battery technology developed at CeNS enables the transformation of ordinary glass windows into energy-storing units through the implementation of an affordable and high-performance aqueous transparent battery. This innovative approach involves coating ordinary glass with active cathode and anode materials, specifically utilising tungsten oxide (WO3) as the cathode and aluminium as the anode. The transparent battery design incorporates aluminium-ion battery technology, featuring a carefully optimised electrochromic WO3 layer with a thickness of 170 nm. This design ensures an optimal balance between energy storage capacity and transparency, allowing the windows to function both as energy storage units and maintain their transparency.

During the day, when the battery is fully charged, the smart windows remain transparent, allowing natural sunlight to illuminate the room. Come nighttime, the stored energy can be utilised to power electronic devices within the room. Additionally, the electrochromic battery undergoes a colour transition to a dark blue state, providing enhanced privacy. This innovative technology offers a myriad of applications, particularly in energy-efficient buildings and wearable devices, where visible energy level performance is crucial. The aqueous-based electrochromic battery not only enhances energy efficiency but also introduces aesthetic and practical features, making it a versatile solution for various real-world scenarios.

AL Circle: What inspired the research team at CeNS to focus on creating transparent batteries, and what are the potential applications of this technology beyond smart windows?

Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: The decision to explore transparent batteries stems from a comprehensive understanding of the transformative impact of smart windows, particularly electrochromic (EC) windows, on various industries. The widespread popularity of smart windows globally, ranging from corporate offices to residential interiors and transportation sectors, has positioned them as integral architectural elements. Industries engaged in the fabrication of transparent electrodes are actively seeking innovative applications, creating a burgeoning market for smart windows. Their adoption has not only captured the interest of the construction and automobile industries but has also aligned with the ‘Make in India’ initiative, contributing to industry development and job creation. The market potential for electrochromic glass further underscores the opportunities within this sector.

The global electrochromic glass market's projected growth, valued at USD 1.4 billion in 2019 and expected to reach USD 2.6 billion by 2027, emphasises the demand for such technologies. Despite this, India-based industries have yet to make significant efforts in producing "EC smart windows," presenting an opportunity for innovation and market penetration. While established foreign competitors like View Inc. and Corning Inc. exist, primarily in Europe and the US, the lack of knowledge about the smart windows market in India and insufficient trained manpower pose potential risks for technology development. This insight underscores the importance of indigenous efforts and research in this domain.

We recognise the advantages of electrochromic (EC) windows over existing methods, particularly in terms of low power consumption and control over the entire solar spectrum. These advantages position transparent batteries as a strategic area for further exploration, envisioning applications beyond smart windows. The goal is to not only meet the growing market demand for EC windows but also to pioneer innovations that can transcend conventional boundaries. In summary, our team CeNS is inspired by the transformative impact of smart windows and aims to leverage its research capabilities to develop transparent batteries with applications extending beyond the current scope. The potential societal benefits and market opportunities drive our commitment to advancing this technology.

AL Circle: Could you explain the role of aluminium-ion battery technology in the design of the transparent battery? How does it contribute to the efficiency and functionality of the energy storage system?

Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: The role of aluminium-ion battery technology in the design of the transparent battery lies in addressing the challenges associated with colour indicator energy storage, particularly in applications such as energy-efficient buildings and wearable devices. Our proposed Al-ion electrochromic battery employs a unique design featuring WO3 as the cathode material, Al metal as the anode, and AlCl3 as the aqueous electrolyte. The use of multivalent ions, specifically aluminium, proves to be a pivotal solution. Unlike other materials capable of colour change upon ion intercalation, aluminium-ion batteries offer higher optical contrast and capacity by providing multiple electrons.

AL Circle: Dr Singh, you mentioned using aqueous electrolytes for cost-effectiveness and safety. Could you provide more insights into how this choice impacts the performance and feasibility of the transparent battery technology?

Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: Thank you for your insightful question regarding the use of aqueous electrolytes in our Al-ion electrochromic battery design. The choice of aqueous electrolytes, specifically AlCl3 in our case, plays a crucial role in enhancing both the cost-effectiveness and safety of transparent battery technology. In our research on aqueous-based electrochromic batteries, we have identified significant potential for applications in colour indicator energy storage, particularly in energy-efficient buildings and wearable devices where visible energy level performance is crucial. The use of AlCl3 as the aqueous electrolyte in our Al-ion electrochromic battery design contributes to the cost-effectiveness of the technology. This choice allows for a more economical and sustainable solution compared to certain non-aqueous alternatives, thereby making it viable for widespread adoption. Moreover, the impact on performance and feasibility is notable. The unique design of our Al-ion electrochromic battery, utilizing WO3 as the cathode material and Al metal as the anode, coupled with the aqueous electrolyte, results in a battery with high structural stability.

AL Circle: How do these smart windows contribute to eco-friendly building designs, and what benefits do they offer regarding energy efficiency and sustainability?

Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: These smart windows contribute significantly to eco-friendly building designs by enhancing energy efficiency and sustainability. Here are some ways in which they offer benefits:

  • Dynamic light control: Electrochromic smart windows can change their tint or transparency in response to external conditions such as sunlight intensity, temperature, or user preferences. This dynamic control allows for optimal natural light utilization, reducing the need for artificial lighting and contributing to energy savings.
  • Heat regulation: These windows can selectively block or allow sunlight based on the building's heating and cooling needs. In hot weather, the windows can be tinted to reduce glare and solar heat gain, thereby lowering air conditioning costs. In colder weather, the windows can allow more sunlight, aiding in passive solar heating.
  • Energy storage: One of the key features of energy-storing electrochromic smart windows is their ability to store energy. During periods of excessive sunlight, the windows can harvest solar energy and store it for later use. This stored energy can be utilized during periods of low sunlight or high energy demand, contributing to overall energy efficiency.
  • Reduced HVAC load: By regulating the amount of sunlight entering a building, these windows help reduce the load on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This results in lower energy consumption and operating costs for HVAC systems, contributing to a more sustainable and eco-friendly building design.
  • User comfort and productivity: Smart windows can enhance occupant comfort and well-being by providing optimal lighting conditions. Reduced glare and appropriate natural light levels contribute to a more comfortable and productive indoor environment, positively impacting the occupants' experience.
  • Carbon footprint reduction: The energy efficiency achieved through smart windows can lead to a significant reduction in a building's overall energy consumption. This, in turn, lowers the carbon footprint associated with energy production, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly building design.
  • Long-term cost savings: While the initial cost of installing energy-storing electrochromic smart windows may be higher, the long-term savings in energy bills and maintenance costs can outweigh the initial investment. This makes them economically viable in addition to their environmental benefits.

In summary, these smart windows play a crucial role in eco-friendly building designs by optimizing natural light, regulating heat, storing energy, enhancing user comfort, and ultimately contributing to energy efficiency and sustainability.

AL Circle: How do you envision integrating transparent battery technology into existing infrastructures?

Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: Transparent battery technology integrating it into existing infrastructures can further enhance sustainability:

  • Energy storage: Transparent batteries can store excess energy generated from renewable sources, such as solar panels integrated into windows or building facades. This stored energy can be used during periods of low renewable energy generation or high demand, contributing to grid stability and reducing reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
  • Flexible design integration: Transparent batteries can be seamlessly integrated into various building components, such as windows, facades, or even electronic devices with transparent screens. This integration does not compromise the aesthetic appeal of the building while adding a functional and sustainable element.
  • Powering smart devices: Transparent batteries can power a building's sensors, smart windows, and other energy-efficient devices. This reduces the overall reliance on traditional power sources and contributes to the overall energy efficiency of the infrastructure.

To achieve widespread adoption, collaboration between researchers, manufacturers, and the construction industry will be essential to ensure cost-effectiveness, scalability, and compatibility with existing infrastructure.

AL Circle: In your opinion, when will this technology be commercially available? What will be the cost involved in this technology for implication on an end-user basis?

Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: This innovative technology is in a developmental stage at its current Technology Readiness Level (TRL-4). The timeline for its commercial availability will be influenced by the collaborative efforts of key stakeholders such as government bodies, private sector partners, and industry collaborations. As the technology matures, a more accurate estimation of its commercial release can be determined. Regarding the cost implications for end-users, providing specific details at this early stage is challenging. The eventual cost will depend on factors such as further research and development, production scalability, and market demand. As the technology progresses towards commercialization, more information on the associated costs will become available. Stay tuned for updates as the development and implementation of this technology evolve.

AL Circle: Finally, please outline any regulatory or policy considerations that influence adopting and deploying transparent energy storage solutions on a larger scale.

Dr Ashutosh Kumar Singh: Regulatory frameworks and policies will play a crucial role in shaping the landscape, ensuring a conducive environment for the technology's integration into the mainstream energy sector. Therefore, careful consideration and alignment with relevant regulations will be vital to facilitate the seamless transition of this technology into broader applications.

The adoption and deployment of transparent energy storage solutions on a larger scale are influenced by various regulatory and policy considerations. These considerations are essential for ensuring safety, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. Here is an outline of some key regulatory and policy aspects:

Safety standards and regulations

  • Compliance with safety standards: Transparent energy storage solutions must comply with existing safety standards and regulations to ensure the technology does not pose risks to users or the environment.
  • Testing and certification: Rigorous testing and certification processes may be required to verify the safety and reliability of the technology before it can be deployed on a larger scale.

Energy efficiency standards

  • Adherence to energy efficiency standards: Regulatory bodies may establish energy efficiency standards that electrochromic energy storage solutions need to meet to be eligible for deployment. This is crucial for ensuring that the technology contributes to overall energy conservation efforts.

Environmental regulations

  • Hazardous materials and disposal: Transparent electrochromic devices may contain materials that could be considered hazardous. Regulations governing the use, handling, and disposal of these materials need to be adhered to in order to minimise environmental impact.
  • Life cycle analysis: Regulatory authorities may require a life cycle analysis of the technology to assess its overall environmental impact, including manufacturing, use, and disposal phases.

Building codes and standards

  • Integration with building codes: As transparent electrochromic energy storage solutions are often integrated into windows or building structures, compliance with local building codes and standards is essential to ensure safe and effective installations.

 Incentives and subsidies

  • Financial incentives: Governments may offer incentives, subsidies, or tax credits to encourage the adoption of sustainable and energy-efficient technologies. Transparent electrochromic energy storage solutions could benefit from such programs to promote widespread adoption.

 Privacy and security regulations

  • Privacy concerns: Transparent electrochromic solutions integrated into windows may raise privacy issues. Regulations regarding the collection and use of data, especially in residential or commercial settings, need to be considered and addressed.

Public engagement and education

  • Public awareness and acceptance: Policies may be needed to promote public awareness and acceptance of the technology, addressing any concerns related to safety, privacy, or environmental impact.

Research and development incentives

  • Support for innovation: Governments may provide incentives for research and development in the field of transparent electrochromic energy storage, fostering innovation and technological advancements.

It is important to note that the regulatory landscape may vary across jurisdictions, and stakeholders should be aware of and comply with specific local regulations and policies when deploying transparent electrochromic energy storage solutions.

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